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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

September 19, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Round-up: Inslee forms council on children’s health, feds launch new campus assault campaign

Inslee creates new council focused on children’s health (The Herald): Gov. Jay Inslee announced a 50-member council on Thursday that will help shape his Healthiest Next Generation Initiative. The plan aims to improve children’s well-being by getting more nutritious food into schools and promoting recess time, among other strategies. 

Former Portland teacher who protested Planned Parenthood files lawsuit (The Oregonian): Former math teacher Bill Diss has filed a $390,000 lawsuit against Portland Public Schools, arguing he was wrongfully terminated from his position at Benson High School after exercising his free-speech rights and protesting against Planned Parenthood.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

September 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Sticker relief: First thoughts of a new public college parent

“Here’s the bill for Western,” I told my husband this summer, waving a piece of paper in the air. “Tuition and fees are going to be $8,965.”

“Per quarter?” he asked.

“No! We’re in the state school system now. That’s for a whole year.”

I’ve been covering higher education in Washington since 2011, and I’ve also experienced college as a parent through the filter of my daughter, who’s been at an out-of-state private college for the past three years. But this fall, my son becomes a freshman at Western Washington University, and for the first time I’m the parent of a student in the system I’ve been writing about.


Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, Western Washington University

September 18, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Coming Sunday: The promise and pitfalls of universal preschool

Starting Sunday, Education Lab presents a three-part series on early education. The stories will dive into the latest research on the benefits of preschool and offer an in-depth look at pre-K programs in Tulsa, Okla.  one of the few places in the country that provides universal preschool.

Look for the stories in print and online this coming Sunday and Monday. In the meantime, here is a video highlighting Tulsa’s approach to pre-K.


Comments | More in News, Video | Topics: early education, pre-K, preschool

September 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Round-up: Kids encouraged to bring phones to school, students talk Ferguson at Rainier Beach

Report points to promising college completion strategies (The Chronicle of Higher Education): A new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas has outlined several things community colleges can do to boost their completion rates. Among the suggestions: offering more accelerated remedial courses, getting students to register on time, and establishing clear attendance policies.

D.C.-area schools encourage kids to bring devices to class (The Washington Post): Teachers near Washington, D.C, are increasingly adopting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy when it comes to technology in the classroom. Advocates say the approach is more practical and sustainable than forking out funds to equip every student with a laptop or other device.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

September 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Americans back teacher ‘bar’ exam, divided on school change

The question of how best to train, and evaluate, teachers has become a proverbial third rail in the politics of education.

Should their pay be linked to students’ academic performance? Their own advanced-level studies? Or to time on the job?

Answers to these questions have tended to electrify school-watchers of every political stripe. But Wednesday, Gallup released a new poll that shows a surprising degree of unanimity: 81 percent of respondents — Democrats, Republicans, Independents and public school parents  say they favor a national certification exam for teachers, similar to that required for doctors and lawyers.

(Such a standard  the National Board Certification — already exists, though it is voluntary and only 3 percent of teachers actually take it, Gallup reports.)


Comments | More in News | Topics: Gallop poll

September 17, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Round-up: Poll finds Americans support teacher exams, group buys out Everest College debt

Poll finds Americans want teachers to pass certification exams (The Atlantic): A new Gallup poll found 81 percent of respondents say they would favor a certification exam for teachers. Sixty percent also said they would like admissions requirements for teacher colleges to be more rigorous.

Activist group buys out debt of Everest College students (NPR): A group called Rolling Jubilee has erased the debt of about 3,000 Everest College students by collecting donations and then scooping up delinquent loans on the secondary market. Everest College is part of a network of for-profit schools that is being sued by the federal government over alleged predatory lending practices.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

September 17, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Round II: Another top teacher explains more of jargon you hate


Spencer Olmsted

In our quest to illuminate some of the education jargon you’ve said confuses and confounds you, today we offer plain-spoken definitions of five more terms, provided by National Board Certified teacher Spencer Olmsted from Olympia. Thanks, Spencer!

He follows Mark Gardner, a Camas high-school teacher (also nationally certified) who tackled three terms last week.

Both Olmsted and Gardner write for the Stories from School blog, a project of the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, a Washington nonprofit.

Olmsted teaches fifth grade in Olympia. His full bio is below.

He chose to define manipulatives, formative assessment, constructivist, scaffolding and number sentence.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, jargon, Spencer Olmsted

September 16, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Round-up: UW says WSU med-school plan is flawed, tech CEOs limit kids’ screen time at home

UW says WSU med-school plan is deeply flawed (AP): The University of Washington has released a statement criticizing Washington State University’s analysis into the feasibility of a new WSU medical school in Spokane. The state Legislature would need to approve funding for the project.

Why tech CEOs limit kids’ electronic usage at home (The New York Times): Executives and founders of companies ranging from Twitter to Apple are known for limiting their kids’ screen time. One common restriction: no devices allowed in the bedroom.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

September 16, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Google flash-funds ‘Ukuleles Unite!,’ other teacher projects

Amanda Burke (left), a kindergarten teacher at Highland Park Elementary in Seattle, was one of several local teachers surprised by Google on Monday. Photo courtesy Google.

Amanda Burke (left), a kindergarten teacher at Highland Park Elementary in Seattle, was one of several local teachers surprised by Google on Monday. Photo courtesy Google.

Music teacher Yvonne Berz got her wish Monday: a classroom set of ukuleles for her students at Springbrook Elementary School in the Kent School District.

It was one of 388 projects that Google fully funded or topped off on Monday in a “flash funding” campaign for teachers in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

For Berz, Google added to 16 other donors who contributed to her proposal, titled Ukuleles Unite!” though the nonprofit crowd-sourcing website,, where teachers can seek funding for specific learning projects.

Google’s $338,000 donation helped teachers buy supplies ranging from books, laptops and Legos to yoga mats, acoustic guitars and a digital microscope.

A kindergarten teacher at Highland Park Elementary School in Seattle, for example, asked for four HP Chromebook laptop computers and a Microsoft Surface tablet. A teacher at Lowell Elementary School in Everett asked for mapmaking supplies.

Google has sponsored other DonorsChoose “flash funding” campaigns in recent months in San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Austin, Kansas City and Los Angeles.


Comments | More in News | Topics:, Google

September 15, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Guest: Project-based classrooms help kids become active learners

Michael Golden

Michael Golden

With the new school year under way, a major initiative related to class size on the ballot in November, and an unrelenting race-based achievement gap across the country, how we educate our children and prepare them for the world is under the microscope. It should be a wake-up call that we continue to fall behind other countries in educational outcomes. The world is changing at a remarkable pace, yet how we educate our youth remains largely the same.

Kids today live in a world that engulfs them in stimuli, changing the way their brains process information and how they learn. What might have worked in the classroom 20 years ago does not work today, but it is still widely used.

To engage today’s students, lessons have to be truly meaningful to them. One effective approach is the use of project-based learning.

What does project-based learning look like? It could be a language arts teacher facilitating a student-initiated project to write a screenplay about a local female rapper. The students would need to learn the mechanical structure of a screenplay, research the nature of the music industry, identify a handful of venues where rappers perform and who some of her fellow musicians might be. Their teacher would guide them through the project and connect them with experts such as screenwriters and music-industry executives in Hollywood.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion

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